Alex Cuthbert scored the only try of the game as Wales did enough to beat France and seal a third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight campaigns.
Much had been made in the build up to the game that it was a chance for Wales to exact “revenge” on the French for what was a very unlucky one point defeat in last October’s World Cup semi-final. The Welsh were the better side that day and the early sending off inspirational captain Sam Warburton probably cost them their place in a first ever Rugby World Cup final.
Warburton himself however said that “Revenge was not a motivation for us this weekend; we didn’t even mention it in the dressing room beforehand. We wanted to beat France to claim a Grand Slam which we felt we deserved.”
Wales led 10-3 at half-time at the Millenium Stadium in Saturday’s Championship decider with the French thanks to a superb solo effort from Cuthbert, though the French defence would have to ask themselves questions. Wales would in fact have been almost out of sight by the end of the half in what was a low scoring encounter as two of their penalty efforts inside the opening 40 minutes hit the upright.
Before the game there had been an emotional one minute’s silence for Wales (1971 and ’76) Grand Slam winning captain Mervyn Davies, who died on Thursday, as well as Jock Hobbs, the ex-All Blacks skipper and previous head of the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).
France were determined to ruin the Welsh party and scored the opening points of the game with a penalty from Yachvilli. Wales deservedly went in at the break with a seven point lead though following Cuthbert’s fantastic converted try and Halfpenny’s penalty.
France came back into the game in the second-half and a penalty from Beauxis meant there was four points between the teams. Wales were defending ferociously however and it was while defending that they forced a penalty. Halfpenny landed the massive kick from just inside his own half to put seven points between the teams once more; Wales 13 – 6 France
France came close to a try on two separate occasions with the game entering its closing stages as two separate last-ditch tackles from the irrepressible Lydiate deep inside the home side’s 22 prevented the French from breaching Wales’ try-line. Yachvilli landed another penalty to make the score 13 – 9 but replacement scrum-half Trind-Huc conceded a stupid penalty for throwing the ball away having been bundled into touch. Halfpenny once again converted the three pointer with four minutes remaining. That made the score 16 – 9 and Wales battled manfully to prevent their opponents from threatening their try-line in the closing minutes.
Wales: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies (Williams 53), Roberts, North, Priestland, Philips (Lloyd Williams 63); Jenkins, Rees (Ken Owens 63), Adam Rhys-Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (Charteris 63), Evans, Lydiate, Warburton (captain replaced by Ryan Jones 41), Faletau
France: Poitrenaud (Buttin 36), Fofana, Rougerie, Fritz, Palisson (Trinh-Duc 53), Beauxis, Yachvilli; Poux (Debaty 44), Servat (Szarzewski 44), Attoub, Pape, Maestri, Dusautoir (captain), Bonnaire (Picamoles 59), Haranordiquay